ASEA Prepares TRO Re: State COVID-19 Response

ASEA Members,

The number of calls and emails we have been receiving from state employees about their concerns about workplace safety and safety in general regarding the novel coronavirus today are staggering. ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 has been reaching out to the highest levels of the SOA leadership for days to demand immediate action on behalf of the health and safety of all Alaskans (you can see a timeline of recent actions on the ASEA website here). We have been urging the governor to take immediate and decisive action to allow as many employees as possible to work from home. For us, this means sending all ‘non-essential’ employees home to telework or on paid administrative leave while logistics for working from home are ironed out. We know that all of the services public employees provide are vital for the healthy functioning of government. But nothing is more important that your health and safety.

You are entitled to safe work place in your contract and the SOA must abide by the Division of Labor Standards and Safety regulations. See Article 29.01. Essential frontline employees must be protected as much as possible which means providing protective gear (which we know is limited) and reducing the number of employees in workspaces and altering how interactions with the public can continue. See AFSCME Fact Sheets that were recently sent to frontline employees on best practices for operating in a COVID19 environment.

To date, the Governor has failed to respond to our numerous requests and appears to refuse to engage in any communication with us directly. In my many years in public service, I have never experienced anything quite like this Administration’s refusal to communicate with ASEA on employee issues including on the COVID-19 issue that is a clear threat not only to your safety but the safety of the public at large. Words cannot describe how frustrating, and at this point, dangerous the Administration’s inaction has been. ASEA has no other choice than to move forward with a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) tomorrow if the administration does not take immediate action today. Recent modeling ( shows that tomorrow, March 24 through March 29 is our last window to take preventative measures before overwhelming our health infrastructure. Those measures include a statewide shelter in place, which includes state employees. 

The ASEA/AFSCME intends to file a request for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and an injunction that requires the State of Alaska to comply with social distancing federal and state guidelines for those employees who are essential, provide proper equipment for employees who interface with the public, and allow those non-essential state employees to telework. We intend to request an immediate hearing, but cannot say when the matter will be addressed by the Alaska Court System. This TRO will be filed tomorrow, March 24, 2020 unless we hear that the SOA is going to take the health and safety of all Alaskans seriously.

As always, please continue to contact us with concerns, questions, and other issues. We will do our best to get back to you as soon as we can. We are all in this together.

In Solidarity,

Jake Metcalfe
Executive Director